In a last-minute move, Mendocino County prosecutors on Monday for the first time publicly called for jail time for a disgraced Ukiah police sergeant.
A motion filed just before noon Monday by District Attorney David Eyster’s office supports a 12-month jail term for Kevin Patrick Murray, as the Sonoma County Probation Office recommends. Murray’s sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. The Sonoma County probation office prepared an independent sentencing assessment of the Murray case.
DA Eyster and Deputy DA Heidi Larson since July have been repeatedly asked to publicly explain their positions on a controversial plea bargain, but until now they have not responded.
Larson in her motion claims that Mendocino prosecutors never agreed to a no jail time deal and that their position is misunderstood. She insisted prosecutors did their best to encourage two women to testify so they could take the case to trial despite it ending in a widely criticized plea bargain.
Prosecutors, said Larson, never agreed with the ‘indicated sentence’ of no further jail time expressed by the defense and agreed upon at a July 7 hearing by Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman. Moorman indicated she would consider no further jail time if ‘no surprises’ were presented in a final probation office sentencing recommendation.
Larson contended that in fact, Murray’s high-powered team of lawyers from Santa Rosa wanted to go even further:
“The defense also wanted the prosecution to agree that the felony conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanor after two years (the new maximum term of supervised probation) if the defendant has suffered no violations of probation. The prosecution declined this proposal and stated it would adamantly oppose any future attempt to reduce the felony strike conviction to a misdemeanor.
Larson said the District Attorney’s Office is sensitive to Murray’s misconduct stemming from sexual assaults on two women cited in his criminal case and supported by a third woman in a pending civil lawsuit.
“It cannot be overlooked that defendant Murray’s serial misconduct taints and had long term consequences for all who wear a law enforcement badge. His misconduct unfortunately diminishes the truth of some in the community willing to paint distrust with a broad brush on all law enforcement officers and agencies,” wrote Larson.
It is the first time the DA’s Office has publicly commented following weeks of controversy over a sweetheart plea deal that saw the most serious felony sex-related charges dismissed against Murray. The DA’s office agreed to drop three felony charges against Murray, and misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine charge. Instead, Murray was allowed to enter ‘no contest’ pleas to a felony charge of intimidating a witness, a woman he assaulted in a Ukiah motel room in November 2020, and a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge related to a person identified in court documents only as ‘Jane Doe,’ a second woman he is accused of assaulting.
The plea bargain and proposed sentencing has stirred community anger toward a probation-only sentence for Murray and triggered a public protest in front of the downtown Ukiah courthouse.
Murray apparently has written a letter to Judge Moorman asking for leniency.
Murray is a thrice-married man, and father of four who lives in Lakeport. He served two tours of duty in Iraq before becoming a police officer and rising through the ranks at the Ukiah Police Department. He was promoted with fanfare to sergeant in late 2020. Murray has blamed some of his behavior on alcohol abuse and claimed he has stopped drinking. He also contends he is in treatment for a bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress from his military service.
Murray’s law enforcement career over the past decade has been checkered.
The city of Ukiah paid a local resident $1 million after he was beaten by Murray during an encounter at a neighborhood disturbance. The city also settled with one of the victims in the criminal case for $250,000 after she claimed Murray in late November 2020, stole her key card, forced his way through a barricaded motel room door, and demanded she sexually stimulate him. A second woman, a family friend, read of her account and told investigators Murray had twice come to her home and forced her to perform oral sex on him. A third woman, a former Ukiah police officer now a sheriff’s deputy, contends in a civil lawsuit that Murray fondled her, and demanded sex while both were at an out-of-town training session.
Larson in her motion filed Monday attempted to address some of the public outcry in the form of a footnote.
“Some might find it easy to pander to howling voices and the protests of a few that, in part, demand uninformed and crude revenge on this defendant versus constitutional and reasoned justice,” wrote Larson.
Larson suggested it might be easy for the prosecution “to simply argue for and demand an aggravated state prison sentence and then sit down. But that will not be the case in this or any other criminal case in Mendocino County.”
“As has always been emphasized by the current District Attorney during his terms in office, and as further codified in formal and informal rules of professional behavior, a prosecutor should not make, cause to be made, or authorize or condone the making of, a public statement that the prosecutor knows or reasonably should know will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing a criminal proceeding or heightening public condemnation of the accused.”
Since the plea bargain was announced in July, prosecutors privately have suggested a key witness was uncooperative, and unavailable after accepting a cash settlement from the city of Ukiah.
The Sacramento woman’s attorney on Friday disputed those contentions, noting that there was no provision in her settlement with the city to prevent her from testifying. In fact, said attorney Panos Lagos, his client had cooperated with District Attorney investigators and been prepared to testify in court about her encounter with Murray.
Larson, in another footnote in the motion, offered this explanation:
“Before resolving the defendant’s case, efforts were undertaken by the assigned attorney and her investigators as required by law to discuss the possible resolution with both charged victims. While one of the victims was available for this discussion and was agreeable at that time to resolving the case so she would not have to openly testify, the other victim, also living out of the area, would not be found nor reached by telephone to engage in trial preparation and/or to discuss the possible resolution.
Larson contended that “Calls to her Bay Area civil attorney were always taken and would end with him saying he would ask her to call back those working on the case. Assuming she received these messages from her Bay Area attorney, she never followed through on his requests by initiating a return call.”
“The motel room victim had not been available for trip prep in Ukiah prior to trial, and the last office communication ended with a demand to stop bothering her with calls,” wrote Larson.
Lastly, Larson said “some incorrectly believed” charges were filed in a third woman’s complaint that Murray sexually abused her. In that particular case involving a former Ukiah police officer, Larson said the DA reviewed the case in March 2021 and concluded that the Statute of Limitations prevented filing criminal charges.
“It is believed that this possible third victim may have a civil lawsuit currently pending against the defendant or his former employer and may still have her day in court,” wrote Larson.
It has been reported accurately numerous times that the third woman’s case was civil, and not part of the criminal proceedings.
Murray is scheduled to be sentenced at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Judge Moorman’s courtroom.